When a couple divorces, it is possible that one person will be paying the other some kind of spousal support. Virginia residents may know that support as alimony — a complicated system that most professionals believe is problematic and needs fixing. It is also a system that is in a continual state of change.
Where did the notion of alimony come from?
Alimony originated in England. The early system in the United States was based on that model and payment would be made to a former spouse until he or she (almost always to a woman) either remarried or died. That was phased out as more women became part of the workforce. In 1970, the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act was drafted in an attempt to make laws more alike in all areas, which led to no-fault divorce. Then came rehabilitative alimony aimed at helping the payee get back on his or her feet financially, but this system, too, was flawed.
The bottom line
Professionals say the system as it stands now is frequently abused. In most states alimony ends when a payee remarries, though a payee may choose to enter into a cohabitating relationship rather than remarry in order to continue to receive alimony payments. Professionals say until there is a consensus regarding what exactly alimony is intended to do, there will always be problems with the system, but uniform guidelines would be complicated to draft since not all marriages are the same.
For the alimony system to be effective and fair, experts contend solid legal theory must be used to ascertain what spousal support is really for. Laws can then be appropriately drafted. But how that would all pan out is still not clear.